Lawmaker criticized for claiming ’12 poll rigged

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Lawmaker criticized for claiming ’12 poll rigged

The Blue House and the ruling party on Wednesday reacted with furor to an opposition lawmaker’s remark that President Park Geun-hye had rigged the 2012 election.

“Rep. Kang Dong-won [of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy] argued that the presidential election was rigged; that is an insult to the people who chose President Park and a defamation against Park and the people,” said Kim Sung-woo, the senior presidential secretary for public affairs.

“Kang must immediately apologize to the public and the president, and the opposition party must make clear its stance and take responsible measures.”

Kim also questioned Kang’s fitness as a lawmaker for attacking the president while she was out of the country and using his immunity from prosecution to make the comment during a legislative session.

The presidential office’s response came just three hours after Park arrived in the United States. It is rare for the Blue House to comment on an issue at home while the president is abroad.

On Tuesday, during a National Assembly hearing with the Park administration, Kang abruptly raised the issue.

He went on to note previous accusations waged against the National Intelligence Service and the military cyber command concerning their alleged intervention in the polls, adding that the National Election Commission was suspected to have manipulated the ballot count.

“Only two hours after the ballot-counting started on election day, one broadcaster claimed that Park was likely to win,” Kang said. “Only 24.4 percent of total ballots, and only 6.4 percent of the ballots for Seoul, had been counted at the time.

“How could they have made such a report?”

“President Park Chung Hee [the late father of the current Park] took power through a military coup, and President Park Geun-hye did so with an election coup,” he added.

He subsequently asked the chief justice of the Supreme Court to hold a trial on the people’s petition to nullify the election.

On Dec. 19, 2012, Park was elected president with 51.6 percent, narrowly defeating the opposition rival Moon Jae-in, who won 48 percent.

Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-an said during the Tuesday hearing that Kang’s remark seriously defamed the voters who had cast their ballots for Park.

“It is also a serious defamation against the National Election Commission, which has a high global reputation for its fairness.”

Hwang added that it was impossible for the ballots to be manipulated and reminded Kang that opposition party members had also monitored ballot-counting processes nationwide.

The National Election Commission went on to refute Kang’s claim point by point.

The election watchdog said Tuesday that 4,536 observers recommended by each party and candidate monitored the vote-counting system and that it was conducted fairly and transparently.

It was the broadcaster’s mistake, it said, denying accusations that the outcome was provided in advance.

The commission added that it was more than willing to recount the ballots if the ruling and opposition parties agreed to it.

The ruling Saenuri Party urged Kang to give up his Assembly seat over the remark.

“This is a serious crime intended to instigate a nationwide split,” said Rep. Cho Won-jin, the deputy floor leader of the Saenuri, adding that Kang had no right to serve for having rejected an election outcome that followed constitutional and democratic processes.

The ruling party demanded that Kang apologize and said it would refer him to the National Assembly’s ethics committee and take necessary legal actions against him.

Moon said Wednesday that Kang was just voicing his personal opinion.

The party also issued a statement on Tuesday, immediately after Kang’s remark, stating that the comment was “strictly his personal opinion and the party has nothing to do with it.”

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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